Questions you may be asked at the Initial Asylum Interview

Although these questions may seem basic, these details could be used against you. You must give consistent answers about yourself, in this and other interviews/statements that you provide to the Home Office. These points were taken from

About Yourself

  • What is your date of birth? If you do not know your date of birth, don’t make one up. You can say that you do not know your date of birth, and explain why. If you give an estimate of your date of birth, explain it is a guess and what you are basing the guess on.
  • What is your nationality? The Home Office may say they don’t believe you are the nationality you say you are. In your interview, give as much information and details as you can about where you are from. For example, which area did you live in? Where did you go to school? How many people lived there? What were the local languages?
  • Have you ever been convicted of a criminal offence? If you were imprisoned/convicted in your country of origin as a result of persecution from the authorities, and you are now seeking asylum because of this persecution, give as much detail as possible. When were you arrested? By whom? For what reason? How long did you spend in prison? What were the conditions like? Did you ever go to court? Why were you released?
  • Do you speak other languages? If you speak other languages, the interviewer will want to know how you know these. If you didn’t have a formal education or you are from a country with a poor education system, the Home Office may say they don’t believe you. You must explain how you know these languages. If you are not fluent in these languages, say so. Otherwise, the Home Office may try to interview you in these languages instead of your mother tongue.

About Your Journey

  • When did you leave your country? If you are not sure which date you left your country, give the answer as close as possible. What month was it, what year? Explain why you are not sure. Try to give any details you can about the time of year. Was it winter or summer? Was it around Ramadan or another festival? Was it around the harvest or another important time of year? If you give different dates in different interviews, this will be used to doubt your story.
  • Did you travel through other countries on your way to the UK? How was this arranged? How much did it cost? How long did it take? What form of transport did you use? How long did you spend in the different places you travelled through?
  • Did you claim asylum in any of the other countries you have travelled through? If you did not claim asylum in another country on the way to the UK, the Home Office will want to know why.

Remember that the Home Office may use what you say in this interview as evidence to make a decision about the “inadmissibility” of your asylum claim. Since January 2021, if the Home Office thinks that you travelled through a “safe country” on your way to the UK, they can decide to investigate whether your claim should be treated as inadmissible. While your claim is being considered under these rules, your asylum claim will not move forward in the UK.

However, at the time of writing, though people who have claimed asylum in the UK have been issued notices of inadmissibility, there is currently no country that they can be sent to. This means that the Inadmissibility Rules policy has not been carried out fully. Read our Toolkit page on the Inadmissibility Rules to better understand what really happens if someone’s claim is flagged as potentially inadmissible.

Why Are You Claiming Asylum?

  • Why can’t you return to your country? What could happen to you if you did?
  • You should tell the Home Office about any specific events that have happened to you, giving as much detail as you can. Where possible, include the dates of these events – but remember to say if you are not sure of the date. Being persecuted in the past does not in itself mean you are in need of protection – you need to show you are at risk of something happening if you were returned to your country now.
  • Was there a specific event which made you leave your country? Was it just one event that made you leave? If you’d been suffering persecution over time, what was it about that final event or threat that made you leave at that point?
  • You should try and give your answers about events in chronological order (what happened on particular dates and times)
  • If you didn’t leave your country immediately after an incident that put you or people you know in danger, why was there a delay?
  • Has the threat affected other people? Has anyone in your family experienced the same treatment?
  • If your family or other people persecuted in the same way did not leave the area, why didn’t they leave? Why did you leave and they didn’t? If you left family members behind, did you put any measures in place to try and ensure their safety?
  • If family members or other people in similar situations to you haven’t been threatened, explain why you have.
  • If you left your country a long time ago and you are not in contact with your family, the interviewer may ask you how you know information about your home country now. If you’re not in contact with your family, how do you know you would still be at risk if returned? If you are in contact with your family in your country of origin and they are in danger/are being persecuted, it may be helpful to get as much details/documentary evidence about this as possible (without putting them at risk).
  • If your child/children are with you in the UK and are included in your asylum claim, the Home Office will ask questions about whether they have separate reasons from you for needing asylum.

Remember: in this interview, you are explaining why you need international protection. This means why you specifically would be in danger if you were returned to your country. This is different from why you came to the UK, which the Home Office may also ask you about. You may have specific reasons for wanting to come to the UK. These might include personal contacts, family, friends, religious, political or community connections. Make sure that you are clear in your answers – are you talking about why you wouldn’t be safe in your country; or why, when finding somewhere to be safe, you chose to come to the UK (if you did choose)?

Who Are Responsible (Why are you afraid to return to your home country?)

  • Who are you in danger from? The government, military or police? If you are not in danger from the authorities, but from an individual or group of people (also known as a “non-state agent”) you will need to explain why you can’t get protection from the authorities. If you are describing events that have already happened to you, did you report what happened to you? If not, why not?
  • Would you be safe going to live elsewhere in the country? The Home Office may say you are only in danger in one village, city or region and you could ‘relocate’ somewhere else.
  • If you have already tried going to another area of your country to escape from danger, explain why you could not stay there. If you stayed there for a while, what made you leave in the end?

Arrest or imprisonment

  • If you were imprisoned in your home country as part of your persecution, you will need to explain how you were released, or if you escaped then you need to explain how you managed this. The Home Office is usually very suspicious of escape stories – be clear about how this was possible, and don’t assume the Home Office knows anything about how this could work in your country.
  • Are other people facing longer sentences/torture, and might this happen to you if you were imprisoned again?
  • If you were mistreated while you were imprisoned, make sure to give information about this. Were there bad conditions? For example, many people sharing a small cell, withholding of food rations, no “yard” time outside, or were you kept in isolation? Did you experience torture?

Dates, times, and cultural issues

During the interview, you may be asked to fit your story into a chronological timeline, perhaps in a way you are not used to.

Alternatively, during the interview, the interviewer may jump around from event to event which can be very confusing. Take your time answering questions and think about what you want to say before speaking. You might find it easier to draw a timeline of events – ask the interviewer if this is possible.

If you cannot remember a date, say you cannot remember. You may not be able to remember an event by a day or month but by the weather, the season or a family occurrence. You can explain these instead if you are sure of them. If there are ways of marking time that make more sense to you than an official calendar, such as an important church service or jobs you do as a farmer at a similar time every year, use these. For example, you may remember that something happened during Ramadan, or after the harvest. Or that it was winter, because the nights were cold.

If you guess a date, and then say a different date at a different point in the interview or a later stage of your application, this will be used to doubt your story.

Be clear about which calendar you are using. Always do this, whether speaking to your lawyer, an interpreter, the Home Office, or a judge. It is better not to switch between calendars as this can lead to mistakes. If you are used to using the Persian calendar, or the Ethiopian calendar, use that throughout your testimony and it will be converted to the UK calendar by the Home Office or your lawyer (if you have one). If you have a lawyer, you can ask them to check that the dates have been converted properly by the Home Office, an interpreter or by themselves.

Be aware that the person interviewing you may know very little about your country and/or culture. This can lead to misunderstandings in the interview, and ultimately to a refusal of your asylum claim. For example, you may use the word “auntie” or “uncle” to refer to someone you know. In the UK, these words usually have specific meanings – the brother or sister of your mother or father. If you use the word “uncle” in the broader meaning (not someone blood-related to you), for example if you said “my uncle in Kabul helped me”, it will cause confusion if you later say you haven’t got any family in Kabul.

Sensitive matters which are difficult to talk about

In the asylum substantive interview, you may have to talk about difficult experiences, and remembering these events can be upsetting. It is important, however, to try and give enough detail about the events to explain them to someone who wasn’t there, isn’t from your country, and to explain why these events led to you having to leave your country.

Giving details about a physical or sexual assault can be particularly distressing, but your testimony will be used to make a decision on your asylum claim. It is therefore important to include as much information as you can, such as:

  • who attacked you
  • what they were wearing
  • if they were police or army or secret police (and their rank if you know it)
  • what they did to you
  • how often it happened, particularly if you were in prison/detention at the time
  • who else was present;
  • how you managed to survive.

Medical or psychological problems

Do you have any medical or psychological problems? Are these a result of torture/mistreatment in your home country?

You should tell the Home Office about these, and show them any evidence of this. If you have scars on your body, you can tell the interviewer this. You should also speak to your lawyer about getting a ‘scarring’ report, or other medico-legal report.

Soon after the interview, perhaps the next day, you should go through the written record of the interview (the “transcript”) to check for any mistakes or misunderstandings in your answers, or how they were written down, or in the interpretation. You might find it useful to have a friend to help you with this. It may be several months before you receive your asylum decision based on this interview, so it is best to look for potential problems while it is still fresh in your mind.

A statement may also be submitted after the interview, particularly if there are things you weren’t given a chance to explain or you think there were problems with the interview. You can do this of your own accord, or the Home Office might even get in touch with you to ask for clarification of certain points. 

If you have a lawyer, make sure you have an appointment booked with them to discuss how the interview went, and to submit a statement to the Home Office to correct any mistakes or misunderstandings in the interview or interview record.

After your substantive interview, the Home Office will look at the information you gave in your screening interview and then in your substantive interview. The person making the decision on your asylum claim may be the same person who interviewed you, or it may be someone different.

They will check if there are any differences, or things they don’t think make sense, or that they don’t think are true. They will look at the information they have about your country, and decide whether they think you are telling the truth and whether you need protection in the UK.

You may have documentary evidence that you wish to submit to the Home Office to support your asylum claim. Documentary evidence might include a political party membership card, an arrest warrant, a birth certificate, or newspaper articles about you or about persecution of people like you. Not everyone will have this, because documentary evidence can be hard to get because of the circumstances in which you had to leave your country. You may have or want to get evidence of medical or psychological problems.

If you are going to submit any documentary evidence, make sure you have shown this to your lawyer beforehand and they have agreed it should be submitted. You can either give this evidence to the Home Office at the interview, or shortly after the interview.

You are able to submit further evidence after the interview, or to clarify your answers if you checked through the transcript and found mistakes or remembered things you didn’t mention during the interview. Generally, you (or your lawyer) should contact the Home Office to ask for a reasonable period of time to submit this information before they provide you with a decision on your case. 

The Home Office guidance says the following: 

 unless the claimant or legal representative asks for time to provide further information and you agree a reasonable time for them to provide it. Legal representatives must notify the Home Office of the availability of further information and are expected to provide all information relevant to their client’s case at the earliest opportunity.

Although the interview is the primary opportunity to clarify unclear statements or inconsistencies within statements or other evidence or with country information material to the claim, you [the Home Office interviewer] have the discretion to seek explanations in writing or by telephone after the interview. 

For example, where country information research finds information which directly contradicts the claimant’s statements or appears to do so, it would be good practice for both the claimant and the Home Office to clarify the matter in further correspondence, rather than defer the issue to the appeal stage. Where the claimant is represented, all contact must normally be made through their nominated legal representative, except where there are safeguarding concerns.

It can take a long time to get a decision on your asylum claim from the Home Office. You may have to wait several months, maybe even more than a year.

It’s very important to be prepared for a refusal (the Home Office denies your asylum claim) so you can take action very quickly.


If you want to instruct me, please email me at or or call us on 07446 888 377. My name is Atty Magsino of MBM Solicitors. I am a UK qualified lawyer /solicitor /attorney-at-law recognised and regulated by the UK Law Society and the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA).

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